Sept. 27, 2004 -- If you're the parent of the shortest -- or the tallest -- kid in the class and think that his social life will be determined by height, worry no more. Busting the myth of the Napoleon complex (or conversely, the leggy supermodel), whether a child is extremely short or tall has minimal impact on popularity, friendships, or reputation, according to a new study.
Short stature, conventionally defined as height that is two standard deviations (approximately the second percentile) or more below the mean for age- and gender-specific national norms, is believed by some to predispose a child to negative social experiences, including teasing, less social acceptance, and fewer friends. But this study, published in the September issue of Pediatrics, found that student's height was unrelated to how well the individual was liked by others or self-perceptions.
The study was conducted among 956 students of both genders in grades six through 12. The children were asked to list their best friends and then rank them among their other classmates. Separately, they were asked to evaluate their peers with definitions such as who is a leader and who is a loner.
Based on the students' responses, short children were no more or less liked by their classmates than were average-height or tall kids; and when choosing friends height was not apparently a consideration. There were no gender differences, either: Short stature was no more harmful to boys' social adjustment as it was to girls', which is stereotypically inconsistent.
The research dismisses the theory that growth hormone therapy will better a child's social stature and ultimately contribute to her happiness.
Currently, there are reportedly 40,000 kids in the United States receiving treatment for growth hormone deficiencies. In July 2003, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Humatrope, a brand of growth hormone used to treat otherwise healthy kids of short stature.
The American Academy of Pediatrics reportedly recommends use of growth hormones only in children who have a deficiency of the hormones; a rare chromosomal abnormality called Turner syndrome that stunts growth in girls; or a chronic kidney disorder that retards growth.